A STRONG second half performance saw Oxford United sweep Accrington Stanley aside and finish the season with a flourish.

There was little to choose between the sides in a poor first half, but United went up a gear on the hour mark to win their third successive game and finish ninth in the table - four points from the play-off places.

James Constable broke the deadlock with his 14th goal of the season and was fouled for a penalty which Deane Smalley converted three minutes later.

Lee Molyneux was sent off as Accrington self-destructed in the closing stages and United took advantage by adding a third through Sean Rigg.

Constable returned to the starting line-up in the only change to the side which started the 3-0 win against Rochdale a week earlier.

Tony Capaldi dropped to the bench, where he was joined by Tyrone Marsh, back from a loan spell at Staines Town.

Both sides came into the game in decent form, but a lack of quality in the final third meant clear chances were at a premium in the first half.

Alfie Potter had two glimpses of goal in the opening 20 minutes, but could not test Accrington goalkeeper Paul Rachubka.

The winger slipped as he lined up a volley with the first chance, before failing to get hold of an attempted chip.

Molyneux, who had eight goals in his previous 12 games, was the chief threat for the home side.

The midfielder briefly worried U's stopper Max Crocombe with a curling left-footed shot which flew just wide.

He had another attempt, this time on his weaker foot, ten minutes before the break, but the ball was dragged well wide.

The clearest opening of the half came four minutes before the break.

Liam Davis dispossessed Molyneux and the ball fell to Rigg, who beat his man and burst into the penalty area.

The winger lashed his shot goalwards, forcing an excellent parry from Rachubka.

Rigg was quickly gifted another chance by Dean Winnard, but from 25 yards he could not keep the ball down.

United were forced into a change early in the second half.

Batt, who appeared to pick up a hamstring problem early in the game, was replaced by Simon Heslop.

Scott Davies switched to right back and quickly laid on a chance from the deeper role.

A long diagonal pass was chased by Constable, who went down as he went past Andrew Dawber, on for Rachubka at the break.

It looked a good shout for a penalty, but referee Scott Duncan was unimpressed and booked the striker instead.

Constable was celebrating minutes later when he finally broke the deadlock.

Potter picked him out on the edge of the box and after getting the ball out of his feet, United's top scorer drilled a low shot into the net.

He was heavily involved in the visitors' second goal, which came three minutes later.

Constable was pushed over in the area by Peter Murphy and this time Duncan awarded a spot kick.

Smalley stepped forward and dispatched confidently from 12 yards for his fifth goal of the season.

Accrington boss Leam Richardson, who had already brought on Francis Jeffers, responded by throwing on a second England international striker - James Beattie.

It had only a limited impact, with Crocombe virtually untested in the closing stages.

Instead United looked the more likely to score again.

Marsh, on for only his second league appearance, had two quick efforts which Dawber dealt with.

Accrington looked increasingly ragged and the referee had to intervene after an argument between Jeffers and Molyneux.

They finished with ten men when Molyneux crashed into Potter with a high tackle and was correctly shown a straight red.

There was time for United, who gave Sam Long a debut late on, to add to their lead in the 90th minute.

A ball over the top saw Marsh run clear, but instead of shooting he unselfishly drew the goalkeeper and squared for Rigg to tap into the gaping net.

Oxford Utd: Crocombe, Batt (Heslop 49), Duberry, Raynes, Davis, Potter, Whing, Davies, Rigg, Smalley (Marsh 71), Constable (Long 87).

Unused subs: McCormick, O'Dowda, Pittman, Capaldi.

Accrington: Rachubka (Dawber ht), Murphy, Winnard, Aldred, Liddle (Beattie 70), Boco, Linganzi, Joyce, Molyneux, Amond, Hatfield (Jeffers 61).

Unused subs: Lindfield, Miller, Hunt, Gray.

Referee: Scott Duncan.

Attendance: 2,028 (349 visitors).